Chinese Bildung at Harvard

The enculturation, self-cultivation, personal development, and cognitive complexity that we explore as Bildung, is universal. It may express itself differently and be called different things in different cultures, and not all regimes may appreciate individuality and personas who go against the norms, but in all cultures is there a difference between being 10 years old, 25 years old or a grandmother.

Confucius’ teachings focused on the right way of the gentleman and his personal development. One of his sayings goes:

At fifteen, I was bent on study;
at thirty, I could stand;
at forty, doubts ceased;
at fifty, I understood the laws of Heaven;
at sixty, my ears obeyed me;
at seventy, I could do as my heart lusted, and never swerve from right.

This development didn’t just happen by itself, though, it was a path through life that took a constant effort.

Apparently, this effort is the new black at Harvard. According to this article in the Atlantic: Why Are Hundreds of Harvard Students Studying Ancient Chinese Philosophy? professor Michael Puett’s course Classical Chinese Ethical and Political Theory has become the third most popular course at the university; only Intro to Economics and Intro to Computer Science are more popular.

If one wants to know what the popular Harvard class is all about, one needs to look no further than The Guardian where the popular professor and co-author Christine Gross-Loh share some Confucian advise: Forget mindfulness, stop trying to find yourself and start faking it.

The sudden media interest in Confucius and professor Puett is no doubt due to his and Gross-Loh‘s new book: The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Good Life. I have not read the book, but Confucius is always worth reading, and Bildung one can always enjoy more of!


Posted in Andersen's & Björkman's Blog.

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